Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Birthday Letter

Angela's birthday 2006

Angela's birthday 2009 - Last year without a family

Angela's birthday 2010...finally home!!!

My Dearest Angela,

Yesterday was your 12th birthday...and your first one home with your forever family. How overjoyed I am that this is not another post with you half a world away, struggling to remain hopeful and confident that you and Olesya indeed would one day be with us. There were no tears shed this time, no worries over packages sent months in advance that had not yet arrived, no wishing I was there to give you a hug. This time there were smiles and gleeful laughter, hugs and excitement...there was family.

The night of your real birthday, Thursday evening, we curled up on our bed with laptop in hand and looked at over 600 photos of our lives before becoming family. I say that a bit tongue in cheek as you and I both felt like family all along, but it wasn't official in the eyes of anyone else. But we knew, didn't we?

We sat there, your head on my shoulder and leg draped over mine, Olesya on the other side and Josh eagerly leaning in and we talked, we laughed, we grew quiet as you shared that "My happy birthday at Internat very, very happy mama sad all party." I showed you photos I had received of you getting previous birthday gifts from us and we both laughed at how slow the mail is in Kazakhstan. You told me how much you loved the soccer ball we sent last year, and you thanked me for always sending things to share with your friends so they wouldn't feel left out. Knowing you now, I better understand how important that was for you, and again I promised you we would not forget your friends left behind.

We stayed awake until midnight, all of us walking down memory lane, you learning more about your family and me learning more about your "family" at the orphanage. Your biological mom and dad never came up, but you recalled many antics with your friends, you expressed worry over a couple of the older girls with whom you were close who are aging out soon, and we giggled over goofy brother pictures. Despite the late hour...or who knows, perhaps because of it, we were comfortable and easy with one another, and I marveled privately at coming so far so fast. Daddy could sense what was going on and remained out of the room, recognizing intuitively that it might break the spell we were all under, so we took advantage of the closeness of the moment and ignored the clock, realizing that it is exactly moments like this that build the bonds of family.

Your anticipation leading up to your birthday was so much fun to see! You wanted party hats that most kids your age would have turned their noses up at, and Matthew made your cake for you as we explained about the Roehrman-LaJoy tradition of toothpicks in the middle, which you thought was so funny. We all cleaned and decorated and everyone teased you as we left you alone while we all wrapped presents for you and signed cards. I don't think the grin left your face all day.

As your new friends and our old ones arrived, you were so happy! You were surrounded by love, and for the first time it was your very special day. I did fine with it all except for one brief moment when explaining to a couple of friends standing next to me that this was your very first celebrated birthday, and as I stood there watching you open your gifts as your brothers and sister looked over your shoulder, I said "We have missed so much..." and tried hard not to cry. I don't usually dwell on the time lost pre-adoption, preferring instead to focus on what we have before us, but this one caught me off guard. We HAVE missed so much and I wonder if I felt that more pointedly because we tried so hard for so long to get you and Olesya home and we missed so much in that process that potentially didn't have to be missed.

But as happens, the moment passed and we moved on. You were so filled with gratitude for every single thing you received, and you were very polite and remembered to thank everyone. You have some talented new friends who made you a pillow, created beautiful artwork for you, and generally spoiled you rotten as you so deserved. You will take one step towards young womanhood that at least we won't have missed when, thanks to Grandma Alice, you will get your ears pierced, and you can wear the beautiful earrings she sent. Our gift to you was a softball glove and bat, along with your trip to the zoo, of course. Perhaps the biggest laughs came with the enormous bottle of ketchup that I am sure will be devoured in less than a week! Haha!

As friends trickled away and the night died down, we all piled into our bedroom with blankets and pillows to have a slumber party, as none of us was really ready for the evening to be over with despite how tired we all were. You insisted in sleeping on the coveted spot next to my side of the bed, saying it was your birthday and you should get to sleep there, which everyone agreed to. And there you were, your long legs propped up over the side of the bed as I gently rubbed your feet and you talked about what a wonderful day you had. "Thank you mama, thank you papa, this happy happy birthday good good birthday!! Thank you for family LaJoy!".

We love you so much Angela, all of us. I can't promise you that life won't again be hard, that you might not one day be scared or have challenges that are hard to overcome. I can promise you that you won't be alone ever again, that family LaJoy will always be there for you to count on.

And I want to thank you so much for bringing such joy into our lives. Thanks for taking a chance on love when you had no reason to trust that it would not betray you again. Thank you for your patience and effort as we all transition as a family and learn from one another. Thank you for your honesty, your helpful spirit, your kindness. I have given you all I have had to give for years, and I can see you too are giving us all you have as well. I am so grateful for you and Olesya, so very happy that this year you are home, safe and loved. I give thanks to God that we are all together finally, and pray we have many, many more happy birthdays together.

Watching you grow up will be one of the 5 most amazing things I have ever had the pleasure of doing.

Thank you for letting me be your Mom, not just in name, but in every way. I know it was hard. It has been hard for me to get to this stage too. It was all worth it, wasn't it?

Love you always and forever,


We played a game at the party and Kenny along with one of our guests was a great sport. His head was slathered in whipped cream, and then everyone threw Cheetos at them, The team with the most Cheetos that stuck to their target's head won! You can see the end result below:

It was hard not to laugh at all the shenanigans...thanks Lenore for the extra photos!

Happy 12th Birthday Angela LaJoy!!!
You are loved.


Joyce said...

No other words possible but beautiful beautiful beautiful oh and what a glow!!!

Happy birthday Angela and happy celebration everyone

Anonymous said...

How could a birthday be more wonderful, than celebrating it with the people who adore you? Yes, we all marvel at how quickly and bravely Angela has opened her heart to love and family! Of course I know the courage it takes from a mom's perspective, too...but we know and understand the richness that will be ours, which gives us a bit more patience and courage. Yours is such a very true picture of how love transforms a life and heart.

I know much, much more has gone into your journey of days to arrive at legs draped and heads leaned, but you composed it so well into that one letter. What a treasure that will continue to be, as Angela grows in language and maturity as a young woman, wife, and mother maybe someday herself, to fully grasp the love of Jesus sent to her in the form of a mom and dad to deliver it in person.

My kids are doing the shower run- throughs before church this morning, so I was anxious to check for more photos of the wonderful family celebration. My kind of family celebration, as one of our daughters received a bottle of Ranch dressing as a gift last year. Your family too is a great example of "rejoicing with those who rejoice"...and when needed, "weeping with those who weep".

Thanks for sharing your very private moments with the rest of us to marvel at the goodness of God, right along with you.

Nancy in the Midwest/Central Standard Time

Heather said...

Oh my, be still my heart! How sweet to see those pictures of her birthdays over the years. It is physical proof that she always was your daughter no matter what distance separated you all. Happy Birthday, Angela. I am so happy that you are finally where you belong!

Anonymous said...

The generosity, the love, the glow of a first celebrated birthday permeated EVERYONE--and still does.

Happy birthday, Angela. Happy first birthday all together, Team LaJoy.

Love you all,

Anonymous said...

Joy! What a priceless letter! I must say, I was thrilled to see a photo of YOU. Your "sunshine" face warms my heart.

Tammy said...

Your girls - especially Angela - are just GLOWING! The difference between the pictures from the orphanage and the pictures from this week could be pictures of two different children. They may look the same from the outside but now there is a glow that lights up their eyes and smiles. The warmth that love brings truly is amazing!

I don't know if any of can comprehend how hard life was before and the contrast to how wonderful it is now. Their story could be made into a book or a movie - except no one would believe their rags to riches story and I'm not talking about how rich they are now in terms of money! That she feels comfortable saying she DESERVES to be able to lay next to you because it's her birthday...the change that has gone on internally is so dramatic it takes one's breath away.

I can also feel the glow you have as well, as you give us these tiny glimpses into your family's life. You all deserve all the happiness you are getting right now!

Anonymous said...

Need some heart-warming? Read the LaJoy family blog!! I agree - your story would make a beautiful movie! I wish Angela many more birthdays as happy as this one! Your girls are such sweeties - they were made to be part of the LaJoy family!! Thanks for another uplifting post - love to all, Lynn

Anonymous said...

Every time you post pictures, Angela's smile gets wider and brighter

Lori said...

I . LOVE . THIS!!!!

That letter and those pictures made my day!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Joy and Happiness to you, Angela, from friends you have not yet met in Virginia!

Much love from Peggy & family

Jackie said...

Such a lovely letter, Cindy.

Happy Happy Birthday, Angela!!!

Anonymous said...

So nice to see the pics! Feel like I was there! But, oh the love letter! How my heart hurt in recent years when she was't home for her birthday. Another dream come true. Can't wait to hug our 12 year old! See you soon!

Ms Jane and Mr Steve